Japan was thwarted 3 times on the 3rd day of the 2006 IWC meeting. The biggest blow came when it failed to obtain majority support for its new Antarctic “research whaling” programme, known as JARPA II. This thinly disguised commercial whaling effort would see Japan`s Antarctic whale kill double in numbers, to more than 1,000 whales annually. It also adds fin and humpback whales to the Antarctic minkes it has been killing in the past, under its “JARPA I” programme. Using a PowerPoint presentation, Japan reviewed the results of its past research, reporting on the food types and quantities of food consumed, and speculated about the competition between whales and fish (whales eat fish). The need to expand its research, Japan explained, was based on the importance of obtaining ecosystem data, especially on relationships between fish and cetaceans.
Japan`s report was applauded by Norway and Iceland, along with its votes-for-aid supporters, and panned by conservation nations such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Even Korea, which normally supports Japan, questioned the number of whales Japan proposes to kill. Several detractors noted that virtually no peer reviewed scientific publications have resulted from over a decade of JARPA research. In responding, Japan accused western scientific publications of racism. When the vote came on a resolution proposed by Australia which urged Japan to abandon JARPA II, it was split along normal pro and anti whaling lines, with 3 exceptions. The Solomon Islands abstained, and Denmark and Korea voted against Japan. Apparently, the Solomons was responding to a recent high level appeal from Australia, and Denmark`s Commissioner was under orders from Copenhagen. Korea could not agree with the proposed “science”. The margin Japan lost by was wide enough that these 3 votes would not have changed the outcome, had they been different.
The result was a huge relief to many conservation minded countries and NGOs, who had come into the meeting anticipating that Japan would control the majority. Japan itself had clearly anticipated this also. In responding to the outcome of the vote on JARPA II, the deputy director of Japan`s Fisheries Agency indicated that Japan would go ahead regardless. Warming into his speech, he stated bluntly that next year the situation at the IWC would change. He claimed that all of Japan`s supporters would show up, and there would be “a reversal of history… the turning point is soon to come.” At that point the Chairman declared Japan`s comments off topic.
After the tension of the “scientific whaling” issue, the other votes of the day were somewhat anticlimactic. Japan`s proposal to terminate the Antarctic Sanctuary was defeated by a wide margin, falling short of even a simple majority, and a long way from the _ majority it needed to succeed. On the conservation side, a resolution calling for the establishment of a South Atlantic Sanctuary, proposed by Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, received majority support but fell short of the _ majority it needed to be adopted. Both outcomes had been expected.
Nauru has finally shown up in the meeting, voting, as expected, with Japan. When Japanese and Nauru delegates met during a coffee break, a media crew noticed what was happening and began to film the exchange, at which point the Nauru delegate walked abruptly up to the camera and covered the lens. The incident was immediately recognised as newsworthy and widely reported. Adding to the conservation ranks, India is also present, though as yet unable to vote owing to a confusion over credentials. The problem is expected to be rectified tomorrow, so the slightly pro-whale balance in the meeting will probably be maintained.
See www.earthisland.org/immp for ECO and more from the IWC meeting.